Salt Lake police warn: don’t fall for warrant scam

Mar 2, 2018, 11:00 AM | Updated: 11:36 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Crystal Watts thought she was in trouble. A man claiming to be an officer from the Salt Lake City Police Department called her mobile phone just as she was walking out of a meeting at her job.

“And he said, ‘Can you go somewhere quiet?’” Watts recalled. “‘We need to talk to you.’  I said, ‘What is this in regards to?’ He said, ‘We can’t give out details over the phone, but we’ll be there shortly. We’re about five to ten minutes away.'”

Then came a second call – from a woman who introduced herself to Watts as a dispatcher for the police department. She told Watts there was an ongoing investigation.

“They have reason to believe my information had been stolen and someone had purchased drugs with it,” Watts told KSL.  “And, there’s a warrant for my arrest.”

Watts verified both numbers were real Salt Lake City police department numbers. Something else that added to their credibility? Both callers were real people and not recordings.

“I was in hysterics and thinking this possibly could be true,” recounted Watts.

But then came one more call from the same officer Watts spoke with earlier.

“He’s telling me he’s on his way to arrest me at my work,” said Watts. “Then, he started talking about bail. That’s when I started thinking everything was a little bit odd. He wanted $30,000 in bail money!  That’s absurd, I’d never pay anyone over the phone.”

Salt Lake City police detective, Robert Ungritch, also finds it absurd.

“We’re certainly not going to be reaching out to you as a police department asking you to take care of fines or warrants over the phone,” said Ungritch. “That’s just not the way we do business.”

Ungritch said warrants are usually handled when people have a run-in with law enforcement like in a traffic stop. Don’t expect a courtesy call to your home or office.

“That would be a huge safety issue for us to call somebody and tell them we’re coming over!” exclaimed Ungritch.

The detective isn’t surprised the calls Watts received came from bona fide police department numbers.  The scammers are able to spoof a phone number to make it look like the real deal on caller I.D.

“It’s pretty easy to go on the internet or on your smartphones and download applications that allow you to alter your telephone numbers,” said Ungritch. “I’ve just seen it firsthand how people can spoof their numbers and change them. We need to be vigilant about was we see over the phone and what info we provide.”

In this case, Watts knew how to spot the fraud.

“Never give money over the phone,” she told KSL. “Luckily, my mom taught me right on that one. Never give money to anyone calling you. If you’re calling them, that might be a different situation.”

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Salt Lake police warn: don’t fall for warrant scam